Mailbag: Breaking down the Big Ten, Kentucky
by Nicole Auerbach and Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the first college basketball mailbag of the new year! Hope you all had a great holiday season and caught at least one or two games.
Our college basketball reporters Nicole Auerbach and Eric Prisbell are here to answer your questions each week. Want to get a head start for next week? Send along a question to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WIthout further ado…
@rsj311: uk may only play 2 ranked (FL, MIZZ) in SEC. If they lose 5 or more, does that put them on tourney bubble?
Prisbell: This is a good question about Kentucky. Nicole has seen them a bunch in person so she can speak to the eye test. Here’s the way I look at it: Their best win is the season opener against Maryland. That’s fine. Maryland will get better and better and should, in my estimation, be an NCAA tournament team. The SEC is down and may be no better than the nation’s seventh-best conference right now. In fact, yeah, I think it’s the seventh-best conference. If Kentucky merely beats the bottom-of-the-barrel teams from the SEC and finishes with five conference losses, I still think they avoid the bubble and get in relatively comfortably because of the strength of the Maryland win and quality opponents in non-league play. Let’s remember that we always underestimated how watered down the landscape is come bubble time. There will be teams hoping for berths with close to zero top-50 wins and sub-.500 records vs. the top 200.
Auerbach: I’m not sure if we can pin this on a certain amount of SEC losses just yet, even though that conference has some teams that will drag down RPI. Overall, this has been a really unpredictable season and, after talking with a lot of other college basketball analysts, we agreed it was a bit of a down season as well. That means a team like 2012-13 Kentucky, which may have struggled to get into the NCAA tournament last year with a resume like you are describing, might get in comfortably this season. It’s too early to tell, although the ‘Cats can’t really afford losses … [For more on Mailbag: Breaking down the Big Ten, Kentucky and Wyoming, click here.]